Articles: Memory

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We’ve tested a number of memory kits in our labs, yet there are still quite a lot of interesting products we have not covered in our reviews. One of the topics we’ve avoided until now is dual-channel memory kits that consist of more than two DDR3 SDRAM modules. Meanwhile, such products are widely available and, unfortunately, not always regarded as they should be. The fact is we’ve all got accustomed to overclocker-friendly memory kits that comply with a rather straightforward formula: the number of modules equals the number of memory channels provided by the platform. So any memory kit that consists of four DDR3 SDRAM modules seems to be quad-channel and targeted at flagship LGA2011 configurations. This reasoning doesn’t work in every case, however.

First of all, nearly every midrange and top-end mainboard for CPUs with dual-channel memory controller comes with four DDR3 SDRAM slots, so the infrastructure is ready. Second, today’s controllers provide broad opportunities for using 4-piece memory kits. It doesn’t actually matter how many modules of DDR3 SDRAM, one or two, are installed on each channel. Using four memory modules on a platform with a dual-channel memory controller used to have some limitations concerning memory frequency and latencies, but there are no such restrictions anymore. Yes, putting two modules on each channel makes the controller work more, but today’s CPUs can handle the increased load well enough.

Intel CPUs of the Ivy Bridge family are especially good in this respect. Their memory controller has been optimized significantly compared to their Sandy Bridge predecessors. As a result, there are no limitations on installing high-speed DDR3 SDRAM even if we’re talking about overclocked operation modes. At the time of their announcement Ivy Bridge CPUs were known to be able to clock system memory at frequencies up to DDR3-3000 even if all of the memory slots were occupied, and by today we’ve got a lot of evidence confirming their ability to work with four high-speed memory modules. The most convincing proof is in the memory compatibility lists published by mainboard makers. According to them, Ivy Bridge CPUs are quite indifferent to how many and which type of memory modules are installed on each memory channel.

The manufacturers of overclocker-friendly memory modules have used the situation to their advantage by building a whole class of products out of 4-piece dual-channel memory kits for Ivy Bridge CPUs. Such offers are fundamentally different from ordinary 2-piece DDR3 SDRAM kits in their impressive capacities which are getting more popular due to the low prices we have today. Clearly, four memory modules may be twice the capacity of a typical 2-piece dual-channel product. Considering that the maximum capacity of one DDR3 SDRAM module is limited by the top capacity of existing chips, which is currently 8 GB, you can only get 32 gigabytes of system memory on an Ivy Bridge platform by means of four memory modules.

It is about such 32GB kits that we’re going to talk today in this review. G.Skill has been kind to respond to our request for such products, so we’re going to check out our LGA1155 platform with four memory modules using G.Skill memory kits rated for different frequencies. Thus, we will be able to make sure that installing two memory modules on each channel doesn’t provoke any problems with Ivy Bridge CPUs.

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